A 2,236 meter tall mountain located on the border between Yamagata Prefecture and Akita Prefecture which has been worshipped by the people living around it as a protective god since ancient times. Due to the extreme changes in weather the mountain experiences throughout the year, the scenery also undergoes drastic, seasonal changes, attracting great numbers of visitors seeking to view the natural beauty. The Chokai Blue Line sightseeing road extends to the fifth station on the mountain, making it possible to drive up to this point, and here you'll find a restaurant, and souvenir store as well as the Chokai Hokodate Visitor Center. The Hokodate Observatory offers a sweeping view of the Sea of Japan as well as Naso Ravine directly below.
Yamagata Prefecture [map]
- Momoyake Entrance: This trail starts at Oshizu at the fourth station, maintained as a campground. The trial climbs about 1,400 meters. The trail heads toward the summit (Mimuro) via Tacchirasaka, Karajishidaira, and Mt. Shichiko. The surrounding scenery changes to shrub land, and as the slope gradually steepens, Tacchirasaka starts from the sixth station, and sheer cliffs from the seventh station. From the eighth station, with its truly alpine surroundings, you'll have a spectacular view of the Ou and Okuo Mountain Range from Karashishihira. Along this course, the section above the ninth station is scree slope, so caution against falling rocks is advised on the climb and descent.
- Mansuke Entrance: When using city buses, start from Nakamura in front of the Shiraishizen no Ie nature house, and when coming by taxi or car, start from Ichi no Saka. This route heads toward Sennindaira via Watado and Mansuke hut. The trail passes through a lovely beech forest after Watado. The Mansuke hut is kept clean by member of the Sakata and Akumi district high school mountaineering clubs and former members, so it's a great place to spend the night. There are also plentiful clear springs flowing free, and they stay ice-free even in winter. The climb from just behind Mansuke Hut is very steep. If you hold out for about an hour and a half of hard climbing, you'll reach Sennindaira, with the Senjogahara meadow and the crater edge spreading out in front of you, helping you forget all that hardship.
- Kisakata Entrance (Hokodate) Trail: Leaving from Hokodate, the highest point on the Chokai Blue Line, this trail heads toward Shinzan peak via Sai no Kawara, Mihamajinja Shrine (Mihama hut), and Shimekake. The course is 14 kilometer round trip. This trail starts by the large parking lot, and is paved all the way to the observatory. From the area around Sai no Kawara, it grows gradually steeper. The caldera Lake Chokai is next to Mihama, against the grand backdrop of Mt. Shinzan, Mt. Shichiko, and the crater's outer rim. After you pass Shimekake, the landscape changes to stone all around. The trail is marked with arrows, but there are rocky valley sections passing between boulders where it is very easy to get lost, so make sure to go slowly and carefully check for arrows.
- Yashima Entrance: This is the oldest trail on the Akita Prefecture side, and sees heavy snowfall, leading to vistas of trails through the snow all around. The trail climbs 1,000 meters. Mountain skiing season opens in late April, when the weather stabilizes, and Mt. Chokai offers the rare summer skiing opportunity. Skiing down from the summit is exciting and leaves you feeling great! This trail heads toward Mt. Shinzan summit from Harai River via Sai no Kawara, Ota, Nanatsukama, Kori no Yakushi and Mt. Shichiko peak. There is a steep slope just before Sai no Kawara at the sixth station. From this point up is a series of snow trails, and the climbing trails keep half their snow until mid-July. The Yasushin trail heads to the right of Nanatsukama, following a ridgeline to the cliffs. The scenery is truly spectacular, but the ground is quite steep and footing is bad, so extreme caution is advised.
- Yunodai Entrance (Taki no Koya) Trail: This trail once typically led from Yu no Dai through Taki no Koya toward the summit, but the public road Yunodaira Taki no Koya route was opened, most people ended up driving to the end point at Taki no Koya. As the shortest course leading to the summit, it's especially popular from early summer to fall. This route heads toward the summits of Mt. Fushiogami, and Mt. Shichiko from Taki no Koya via Kawaharajuku and Azamizaka. The great swathes of avens and day lilies blooming around Hacchouzaka and Kawaharajuku, against the backdrop of the crater rim, create a stunning view. The Azamizaka on the way is Mt. Chokai's steepest slope.
- Nagasaka Entrance: This is a long ridge trail from Takasekyo to western Chokai's Mt. Shougadake. This course is used as a training area by local mountaineering clubs for training, and it takes a certain resolve to climb the scree slop upward. After you set out from the Nagasaka Entrance, after Yama no Kami and Katamochi Iwa rock, the view contracts to the rocks in front of you, and you scramble up the rolling rocks of the scree slope past Shougadake toward the Mihama hut. After Katamochi Iwa, with its resemblance to cracked dried mochi rice cake, the steep climbs increase, and the red clay footing grows slippery. The hard trail continues from the scree slope to Tengu Iwa This trail is truly representative of Chokai, offering grand views, steep slopes, and strong winds, making it best for advanced climbers.
- Sarukura Entrance: This climbing trail starts at Sarukura Onsen, the only hot spring at the base of Mt. Chokai. The starting point is in the parking lot across the Okuyama Hobokujo farm from the Chokaiso accommodation facility, and heads toward Nanatsukama via Tanaike, Mikaerisaka, and Uguisudani. After you climb the steep slope and reach the shrub lined ridge, you'll find the sixth station and Mikaerisaka, with a view of the coast to your right, and the Ou Mountain Ranges spreading out behind. Sharisaka, a scree slope just before Mt. Shichiko, presents a danger of falling rocks, so caution is advised. When fog appears in snowy weather, move with care through the snowy valleys.
- Ninotaki Entrance: This is the only river valley tour trail, following as it does a branch of the Gekko River. The long course is geared toward strong walkers, but there's no need to worry about water supply. The route starts from Ichi no Taki parking lot, and passes through Ni no Taki, Mori no Shizu, Fudotaki, Senjogahara, Lake Chokai, Otagahara and Shimekake. After you pass through the red torii and follow the path in front of Ichinotaki-jinja Shrine, you can get a view of Ninotaki falls, with its beautiful split streams. After Mori no Shizu, you'll climb a steep slope then enter a long, undulating path. The trail is briefly broken at Ozawa, making for a very difficult crossing.
- Fukura Entrance: This is the oldest of the Mt. Chokai climbing trails, and is well maintained. The course is 14 kilometer round trip. The trailhead is further up the Chokai Blue Line from public lodging Odaira Sanso, near the Akita Prefecture border. There are parking spaces along the road, and the view is very good. Once you start climbing, you'll reach this courses biggest danger, the Tsutaishizaka. After climbing this steep slope, you'll come out to Miharashidai, and from here the slope is quite gentle. After you climb Kawaharajuku and Atagozaka, the trails from the Kisakata Entrance and Nagasaka Entrance converge. There are public toilets at Mihama, so it's a good place to take a rest. The area around the Mt. Shinzan peak is filled with rocky footing, so please be careful of falling.
Information Sources: NAVITIME JAPAN
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Yamagata Main Areas
Although often overlooked, Yamagata prefecture by no means lacks appeal: the Yamadera temple trail through the mountains, deliciously tender Yonezawa wagyu, and over 100 steaming hot springs, most notably Zao Onsen, await visitors. When winter comes, the snowcapped peaks become dotted with skiers by day and onsen-goers by night, while summer brings the celebration of juicy Yamagata cherries.